Preserving the Union

ehrenamt-fachdozent-pixabay Pixabay, Fachtdozent

There are conversations that are not happening. So many of them that I don’t know where to start. These need to be long and thoughtful conversations where there is goal of understanding one another. These cannot social media bytes or monologues aimed at criticizing, but they should be conversations that are intended to preserve a union. In fact, in regards to preserving our Union, there are strategies for dealing with our current conflicts (ex: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/provide-information-enhance-skills/conflict-resolution/main or https://medium.com/@dbhurley/conflict-resolution-in-a-community-1fc1f1150296 ) it would also be appropriate to use fair-fighting rules already established for married couples (http://www.foryourmarriage.org/25-ways-to-fight-fair/ ). These kind of conversations are particularly important at a time when we have conflicts even on what it truth.

In our national conversations, we all see some things that we think need changing. In our impulse to make those changes we currently are gravitating towards legal solutions. The reason we are inclined to reach for legal solutions is that there has been a loss of trust. The problem with trying to mandate change with legal solutions is that mandates by themselves do not change culture as seen in the past by alcohol prohibition or in current times by forced desegregation. Laws by themselves do not change hearts or create new cultures. Change comes by the long hard work of changing community values. It has taken decades of challenging the value of smoking tobacco, replacing the value of smoking with the value of health, to reduce the popularity of smoking.

The situation we face is that within our country, we have multiple communities with different cultural values. Over time we have seen the isolation of those communities from one another which has brought us to this moment of conflict. Because the isolation has bred lack of trust, the impetus has been to enforce values through legislation rather than by building community. The problem is, if we simply try to force everyone to conform to our values by legislation without having the right conversations beforehand, we end up losing more trust and only build resentment, making any further changes even more difficult.

There is a place for laws as they can create a minimal framework for society to exist and, within some limits, to flourish. However, laws do not make a caring, committed community, laws do not encourage kindness and thoughtfulness, laws cannot create love. That said, our constitution helps create the framework for our society, but it does not create the values held by the members of our Union. The constitution can create the context for our conversations. but it cannot create those conversations. The constitution can provide the basis for our communities, but it cannot build those communities.

Our technologies provide a similar conundrum. Our technological developments have exponentially provided means for communicating with each other anywhere in the world, allowing us the opportunity to build community by communicating with many different people and learning many different things. But the same technology has also allowed us to isolate ourselves: 1) We can isolate ourselves into affinity groups, hearing only what we want to hear, not dealing with what makes us uncomfortable, self-limiting our ability to gain wisdom by only listening to only people who think like we do. 2) We can isolate ourselves from face-to-face contact, losing our sensitivity to a more robust human contact which makes us susceptible to violating others by disregarding their humanity and anonymously attacking them.

I think we can all agree that the state of our Union is broken. Our divisive politics reflects our divisive culture and our political and technological tools can amplify that divisiveness by playing on our fears. Our house may be on fire, but we can find a solution if can replace the calls for alarm and panic with a countervailing voice of unity and reason. We need to be smart about using the tools we have to counteract the panicked voices, to amplify the good and not just the bad. We need to become aware of the good that exists not just in our own communities but in the communities that we don’t know and don’t understand.

We also need to be willing to acknowledge our own weaknesses, to admit that we are broken just like everyone else. That will allow us to look beyond the brokenness that we are more prone to look for in other communities and also look for the good in those communities as well.  This is not easy work. We cannot do this work in sound bites and tweets nor by pontificating on the faults of others. We need to admit that we have faults as much as others find faults. We don’t need to find faults, we need to find solutions.

To find those solutions we need to look beyond ourselves and our own communities where we are prone to think we know all we need to know. We also must engender a sense of humility and be willing to admit that neither we nor our isolated communities have the solution to our conflict, that the solutions to end divisiveness in our Union will require the wisdom of the entire Union. We will need to be intentional: allow ourselves to be inconvenienced and made uncomfortable, be willing to go out of our way to listen to people who are not like us, listen to points of view we disagree with, spend enough time and thought trying to understand other viewpoints. All this so that common ground can be found, that the values of this greater community we call our Union, our country, can be defined and shared.

No one person or one community owns the Union. We all need to share in its definition.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: